Zoo Crane Eggs Travel To Russia To Save Species
An endangered species half a world away is being directly helped by the Birmingham Zoo. For the second consecutive year, our pair of white-naped cranes laid eggs April 18. The two eggs were pulled from the nest April 30 and departed May 1 for Russia by way of the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.
In Russia, the eggs will hatch in mechanical incubators. The baby cranes will be raised as group to prevent them from becoming “imprinted.” This process makes them somewhat comfortable around people and more likely to nest in developing areas. Once they are fully grown, the cranes will be released into the wilds of Siberia.
Last May, the same cranes laid fertile eggs. The cranes are an endangered species and the Birmingham pair had never produced eggs at our institution.
Wild cranes tend to avoid habitat disturbed by human activities. With encroaching farms and other development, cranes are faced with an ever-dwindling amount of suitable habitat. With the loss of habitat the numbers of wild white-naped cranes has steadily dropped.
The Russian crane reintroduction project celebrated its tenth anniversary this year, with a total of 21 white-naped and red-crowned crane eggs being hand delivered from American captive breeding programs in 2003 alone. Released, captive-reared cranes are more tolerant to disturbance and will set up territories in altered habitat. Further good news is that the wild cranes are pairing with released birds and are becoming less easily spooked by human activity.
Of the two eggs sent from Birmingham, one hatched. The chick that was produced though is strong and healthy. In the late spring of 2004, after being given time to adjust in an area of protected habitat, it will be released. With a bit of luck, and a few years time, this little chick that left Birmingham as an egg will be setting up a territory of its own. We send our best wishes to this little bird for a long, productive life in the wilds of Siberia and we hope additional eggs from Birmingham will join him, in future years, to help secure the survival of this species.